House Dems Press Trump Budget Chief on Welfare Cuts

Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russell Vought testifies before the House Budget Committee in Washington on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Calling the plan’s suggested cuts to welfare programs malicious and “intended to do harm,” House Democrats gave President Donald Trump’s latest budget proposal a cool reception Tuesday.

Appearing before the House Budget Committee one day after Trump released his 2020 budget proposal, Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russell Vought spent nearly three hours defending the plan, saying it is responding to harsh realities of the rising national debt.

“This level of debt is unsustainable and threatens the prosperity and economic freedom of future generations,” Vought said Tuesday.

But Democrats blasted the proposal’s calls for $2.7 trillion in cuts to federal spending over 10 years, saying it would underfund key programs from health care to food stamps, including some Trump championed as a presidential candidate in 2016.

“In short, it is a complete abandonment of our responsibility to the American people, and it is intentional,” Representative John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said at the hearing.

Democrats specifically pushed back on the budget for proposing cuts to non-defense spending while pumping more money into the defense side of the ledger.

“We give humanitarian assistance to people around the world because we believe people should not experience food insecurity, people should not starve,” Representative Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said. “But here in the United States, we decide to increase a defense budget that might lead to not having our budgets be fully intact, but we decide to say that we don’t have enough money to feed our most vulnerable. That is the decision we’re making.”

There was some disagreement at the hearing over just how much the administration’s proposal would decrease spending on Medicare. While Democrats said the budget cuts spending by $800 billion less as compared to current levels, Vought said when factoring in other reforms called for elsewhere in the budget, the number is $517 billion.

Vought also quibbled with the characterization of the budget as “cutting” dollars from Medicare, noting the program would see increased funding each year, just not as much as under previous projections.

Even proposals that in the abstract have Democratic support drew criticism on Tuesday. Representative Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, specifically faulted the administration for not proposing a greater investment in infrastructure.

“We need a bolder infrastructure program and just like on prescription drugs, we need this administration to lead,” Doggett said.

Republicans defended the White House proposal as taking a realistic approach to reigning in federal spending. Representative Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, said the starkly different reactions to the budget proposal represent the different views the parties have of the proper role of the federal government.

“I believe your budget takes note of the fact that maybe, just maybe, some of these things and some of them that we’ve mentioned today – maybe it’s law enforcement, maybe it’s crime, maybe its housing, maybe it’s clean water, education – maybe some of these things can be solved by state and local actors,” Crenshaw said.

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